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Uber mulls venturing into the Matatu Industry in Kenya

by Milicent Atieno
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The popular taxi-hailing service, Uber, is reported to be working on the logistics of venturing into the matatu industry in Kenya; that is the public service vehicle (PSV) industry.

We want to be part of the transportation ecosystem in Nairobi and matatus are a big part of how people move around,” said the General Manager for Uber East Africa, Loic Amado during an interview with Reuters.

Stats show about 66% of commutes in Kenya rely on matatu vehicles for their daily commute. The industry in itself is bogged down with a lot of inefficiencies and in most routes, the operators of these vehicles keep on flouting traffic rules. Thereby putting the lives and properties of all road users into jeopardy. Not to mention their arbitrary charging of fare, which can change at an instance depending on the weather; if it rains in Nairobi, you’re sure the matatu fare will hike.

For commuters, the reported entry of Uber into the matatu industry might be good news. Looking at how efficient and affordable the taxi industry has become, perhaps Uber will bring those two things over into the matatu industry.

However, given the fact that the matatu industry in Kenya is sometimes run like a mob, with strong men within the cartels who call shots that in more than one occasion supersede those of the relevant authorities. It would be safe to say that should Uber actually, enter the market, it should be braced for some tough resistance. It might be worse than what we saw with the Uber taxi drivers being marked, hunted, and their cars torched for operating where other regular taxis were operating.

Currently, Uber is running a somewhat similar service in London and New York as Uber Pool and Uber Express Pool. Where commuters traveling in the same direction can hail the same Uber ride.

If or when Uber rolls ventures into the matatu business in Kenya and it proves successful, the company says its next ambition will be to roll the same service in neighboring countries like Tanzania and Uganda.

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